Sunday, June 20, 2010

Protein Eating Enzymes in the Jell-O, OR Just Another Science Sunday

It's been a week of VBS, library reading sign-ups, birthday parties, and swimming lessons. The kind of week, that makes me really appreciate the slower, homeschool pace we normally keep. I'm ready to slow back down.

But, we have Vacation Bible School to thank for our Science Sunday experiment this week, or at least the VBS snack, "Big Sky Parfaits", we signed up to make. Because, "Big Sky Parfaits" called for Jell-O, and that caused us to make some Jell-O. Which, caused us to read the side of the Jell-O box, looking for directions. Which alerted us to the warning on the side of the Jell-O box, saying not to add fresh pineapple, kiwi, papaya, or figs to the Jell-O.

And that, sounded like a science project in the making to us.

So, while the little ones were happily away at VBS for the morning, my oldest, and I went to work. We placed pieces of fresh pineapple, kiwi, papaya (a new one to us), nectarine, cherry, apple, banana, and canned pineapple into an ice cube tray.

Then, we mixed up another box of Jell-O, and spooned some of it, into the ice cube tray, over the fruit, and in the empty spots. We placed the tray into the fridge, and used the extra fruit to make a fruit salad, and the left over Jell-O (with a few Finding Nemo fruit snacks), to make dessert for lunch.

After picking the little ones up from church, and enjoying our lunch, we examined the Jell-O, and fruit, in the ice cube tray. All the cubes had gelled, except for the ones containing the fresh pineapple, kiwi, and papaya. The cube with the papaya, was almost gelled, but still slightly watery. The cubes with the kiwi, and pineapple, had not gelled at all.

The children decided to perform an impromptu experiment of their own, and stuck a couple of pieces of pineapple, from the fruit salad, into one of the uneaten Jell-O desserts (after removing the fruit snacks, of course), and then sticking it in the refrigerator over night. It also began to turn back into a liquid.

After some Googling, we discovered (from Google Answers) this is due to a protein eating, or protease (PROH-tee-ace) enzyme in the fruit (bromelain in pineapple, actinidain in kiwi, papain in papaya, and ficin or ficain in figs). These enzymes are sometimes even extracted, and used commercially in meat tenderizers, and are also the reason the roof of your mouth becomes irritated, or sore when eating too much fresh pineapple. But, when the fruit is processed, such as when being canned, the enzyme is killed, or nullified.

Since gelatin is a protein (from a collagen inside the skin, or bones of animals), the protease enzymes break it down, and keep it from gelling.

We thought it was interesting, anyway. I'm sure we'll never eat pineapple in quite the same way again.

For more fun with science, check out this week's Science Sunday link-up at Adventure's in Mommydom.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Phyllis said...

You always do THE BEST experiments! I love it. I must do it this year sometime. Thanks for sharing all your super ideas.

Debbie said...

This is interesting. I just love it when we all learn something new!

Ticia said...

huh, you learn something new every day.

Unknown said...

Interesting and Yummy.

Tina Hollenbeck said...

What a cool experiment - and awesome that you'd even think to do it (which I think would only be a homeschooler's idea!). I learned something new today...and I may just have to try the experiment with my girls so they can learn it, too. :^)

Pathfinder Mom said...

Very nifty! I think I'll still take my chances - I LOVE fresh pineapple! :) Great experiment!

Unknown said...

That-is-SO-STINKIN'-COOL! Gonna have to try this sometime...

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Very fascinating - I learn so much from your science experiments. Maybe you should write your own "homeschool science" book.